Research and Development

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 22nd January 1997.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley 1:47 pm, 22nd January 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the percentage change in total Government spending on research and development since 1985. [10596]

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

Estimated Government expenditure on research and development in 1996–97 is 36 per cent. higher than the cash expenditure in 1985–86.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

The Minister was unable to answer the question that I asked. The answer is that there has been a decrease of 16.5 per cent. since 1985. Is it any wonder that, because of cuts in Government-funded research and development, we have fallen from 13th to 18th place in the world prosperity league?

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

The hon. Lady forgot to ask the question that she obviously wanted to ask because she did not put the words "in real terms" in her question. There has been a real-terms cut in total Government R and D mainly because of cuts in the defence industry, which I have not heard many Opposition voices oppose. She therefore should not try to be too clever on that account. The science base is at the heart of Britain's efforts to be competitive in the long term, and expenditure on it under this Government has risen by 15 per cent. in real terms during that period.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

Would it not be more significant to ask what our gross R and D spending is as a proportion of gross domestic product? Is it not broadly in line with our European competitors? Is it not typical of the Opposition that they ask about Government R and D spending as though that will solve all our problems, whereas it is private sector investment that creates jobs?

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

It is axiomatic that the Government aim to invest in research and development and thereby to stimulate industrial investment. Industrial investment in the United Kingdom still has further to go, although in recent years there has been a year-on-year increase. I have never denied that my message to industry is that it should invest more intensively in R and D. The Government's record is extremely good and compares favourably with Government expenditure in countries such as Japan and the United States. I intend to ensure that the UK research base is the finest, as we believe it to be. That will come about through the schemes that we are delivering to bring the science base and industry closer together.